June 25th, 2011

Snarky Candiru2

Paranoia and its effects on memory.

There's another thing that keeps the Pattersons from maintaining an accurate record of the past: their tendency to distort the evidence of their senses in such a manner that it fits their preconceptions. Take, for instance, the rather ugly episode we call the Housening; John's need to see April being a defiant, entitled teenager making a big deal over nothing because that's what they do colors how he sees events; despite his later reassurance that he'd be more considerate of her feelings, he still can't quite get it through his thick skull that he'd treated her like a piece of furniture he and Mike had no idea what to do with. A man less in love with the idea that nothing he ever did was wrong and nothing he ever believed should be questioned might have asked himself "What's really wrong with her?" instead of shrugging and making arch, ignorant and self-serving cracks about princesses.

Similarly, Elly cannot seem to ever quite realize that her pets do not, cannot and will not understand English as well as a human being does; since she cannot take to heart her sister-in-law's advice about how, despite their having learned to associate certain sounds with certain things, their facial reactions don't actually mean that they understand what she's saying. You and I know that when a dog recoils in surprise and makes a submissive gesture when someone yells 'Bad dog', they're simply following their instinctive response to submit whoever's the loudest; she sees it as them thinking 'Busted!'

As you might expect, the need to alter memories to fit preconceptions is pretty much the real legacy John and Elly are handing down to their children. As by way of example, no matter how many times Liz is told that her lack of attention to her surroundings and non-existent ability to focus is what held her back scholastically, she remembers herself being singled out by some fink.

Finally, Mike can never seem to learn that bad things happen to other people too and they feel pain just as he does because other people aren't really real to him; he never quite realized that the world is not himself because he was raised by self-absorbed twits to be a rampaging egomaniac.